Breaking Down 6 VB-MAPP Operants

If you’re anything like me and you had no idea what the VB-MAPP was on your first day as a special education teacher, I’m here to let you know that you are not alone. My experiences and knowledge of the ABA side of teaching student’s with autism was minimal when I started. I remember how intimidated I was when I was handed the VB-MAPP assessment and told to conduct a re-evaluation on my student. The things I would’ve done for TAH to release their VB-MAPP Assessment Kit 5 years ago!

As someone who received an in-the-moment crash course, I want to take some time to dive into some of the verbiage that is frequently used when it comes to all things VB-MAPP. One blog post will never get close to explaining all that you need to know, so I’m going to begin with 6 of the operants that the VB-MAPP assesses and why.

1. Mand

The word “mand” means to make a request. In level one of the VB-MAPP, this may mean the teacher asks the student, “What do you want?” and the student responds by saying “juice”. The student requested a drink of juice. Manding is such an important skill because it is what allows our students to advocate for themselves, their wants and their needs. A great way to encourage and teach mands is to show you student their most reinforcing items and each time they request the item, they get time with it. As time goes on, the visual of the item can be faded and you will work towards spontaneous mands.

2. Tact

A tact is the same thing as expressively labeling, or naming something. So if a teacher presents a picture of a spoon and says, “What’s this?” then the child should respond by saying, “spoon”. The student is able to tact that item. I’m sure it is obvious when I say that tacting is a huge part of verbal behavior and vocabulary.  Using picture cards is one of the most convenient ways to teach tacts, but we must remember to make sure our students are generalizing these items. If a student is able to tact a picture of a cartoon spoon, we want to make sure they can generalize this skill and also tact a picture of a real spoon, or a spoon in the lunch room.


3. Echoic

An echoic is just as it sounds, an echo. The student is able to repeat what it is they have heard the teacher say. Echoics begin with sounds and one syllable words and work their way into multi word phrases. Students learn a vast amount of information through the form of imitating others. For many of my students, imitation was not a skill that came naturally. By teaching echoics, our students work towards language and articulation, as well as spontaneous imitation skills. 

4. Intraverbal

An intraverbal is essentially a response from the student when given a statement or question by the teacher. In the beginning of the VB-MAPP, intraverbals can be presented as fill-in-the-blank statements or songs. For example, the teacher would sing “the itsy bitsy…”, and the student would fill-in-the-blank by saying “spider”. Another example is saying “you eat a….” and the student tells you “cookie”. As the student’s language progresses, they may be answering intraverbal questions like “How old are you?” or “Who puts out fires?”.


5. Listener Response

A listener response means the teacher gives a request or direction and the student responds. Very often, these begin with motor movements, such as “clap hands” or “touch your nose”. The student would them perform the actions independently, showing their response. Listener response is a very important skills for all students in the school setting. Listening and following directions is a constant expectation in any setting, heck even after you graduate from school!

6. Motor Imitation

Motor imitation is most likely exactly what you are anticipating. The teacher performs a motor action while saying “do this”, and the student imitates the motor action. This may be gross motor skills such as jumping, fine motor skills such as making a thumbs up, or motor actions with objects such as driving a toy car on the floor. Just as echoics do, motor imitation teaches those necessary imitation skills that our students need to increase independence.

Now that I’ve thrown a bunch of weird words and definitions at you, you should be ready to execute the VB-MAPP (kidding). If you take nothing else away from the blog, just know that if I can figure it out then so will you. With The Autism Helper resources on your side, you’re unstoppable! Be sure to check out the many different bundles to ensure that you’re making your assessment experiences as effortless as possible.


  1. This was extremely helpful! Thank you!

    • SO great to hear! Thanks for reading 🙂


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